Plough Monday

Plough Monday Quick Facts

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2023 Date9 January 2023
2024 Date8 January 2024
Plough Monday

Plough Monday History

Plough Monday seeks to commemorate the medieval tradition of pulling a plough throughout communities. This act was performed by ploughmen in the medieval era as a way to collect money for the local church. Ploughmen were farmers organized in guilds or associations. They would pull ploughs as part of processions with the hopes of receiving blessings from the church. This day pays tribute to the groups of ploughmen who would head out on Plough Monday to collect money. In the 16th century, in opposition of reformers, ploughmen continued to carry on with plough processions in honour of the new agricultural cycle. They used the money for recreational purposes instead of supporting the church however. In the 18th century, this day consisted of playful and celebratory processions. Ploughboys would pull a plough referred to as a fool plough. Plays and folk dances would also accompany the day.

Today, Plough Monday continues to be celebrated as a religious and festive custom. Farmers carry decorative ploughs to be blessed by the local church. Many people carry out plays and perform traditional folk dances. It is also custom to dress up and parade through town. This day is observed annually on the first Monday after the 12 days of Christmas (The Twelfth Night).

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Plough Monday Facts & Quotes

  • A common tradition started in the 19th century is molly dancing. Molly dancers would accompany farm labourers to dance and entertain for money. They would blacken their faces with soot to disguise themselves so they would not be recognised by future employers.
  • It was common in the medieval era for ploughs to be blessed with candlelights on Plough Sunday by the church. It wasn’t until the Reformation period that these blessings were stopped as they were thought to be superstitious.
  • The earliest plough play comes from Bassingham in North Lincolnshire. Created in 1823, the play was performed as a dramatic comedy.
  • In some parts of the country, and especially in the north, they draw the plough in procession to the doors of the villagers and townspeople. Long ropes are attached to it, and thirty or forty men, stripped to their clean white shirts, but protected from the weather by waistcoats beneath, drag it along. Their arms and shoulders are decorated with gay-coloured ribbons, tied in large knots and bows, and their hats are smartened in the same way. They are usually accompanied by an old woman, or a boy dressed up to represent one; she is gaily bedizened, and called the Bessy - The Every Day Book by William Hone

Plough Monday Top Events and Things to Do

  • Attend a Plough Monday celebration. Festivals and observances are regional but some towns have revived the tradition. These include Cambridgeshire, Whittlesey, Yorkshire, and the Isles of Scilly
  • Learn more about the history of Plough Monday.
  • Watch a highlight of last year's Plough Day celebrations.

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